Shooting highlights regulatory flaw

Shooting highlights regulatory flaw

Incident reveals gap in tourist insurance

Tourists flee Siam Paragon mall on Tuesday after a teenager went on a shooting spree, injuring five people and leaving two dead. (Photo: Nutthawat Wichieanbut)
Tourists flee Siam Paragon mall on Tuesday after a teenager went on a shooting spree, injuring five people and leaving two dead. (Photo: Nutthawat Wichieanbut)

The shooting at Siam Paragon on Tuesday revealed a regulatory loophole in assistance for tourists affected by incidents in Thailand.

The Foreign Tourists Assistance Fund was dissolved by the previous government and another permanent funding source was not established to compensate tourists in the event of injury or death.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry reported on Wednesday it plans to compensate tourists killed or injured during the shooting, using either the ministry's fiscal budget or the central budget.

In the past, the families of all foreign tourists were eligible for compensation of around 1 million baht in the event of death from the Foreign Tourists Assistance Fund.

That fund was dissolved last year as it was considered unfit for a performance evaluation, with the ministry planning to switch to insurance for tourists using a budget from a fund set up from the new 300-baht tourism fee.

The novel fee was put on ice during the new government's transition, leaving a gap in tourist insurance.

Tourism and Sports Minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol said the government can continue with the tourism fee scheme, which was approved by the previous cabinet.

A portion of this fee is expected to fund insurance for tourists.

The ministry finalised the collection method, requiring tourists to pay the fee before arrival via a website, mobile app, or kiosk at airports and land border checkpoints.

The method was modified from a previous plan that asked airlines to include the fee in airfares.

Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said Thailand should have a permanent structure to take care of tourists after the assistance fund was cancelled.

She said insurance for tourists is a good initiative, but it would be better to wait before implementation as the country still needs to restore tourism confidence.

After the shooting on Tuesday, hotels in Bangkok reported some Chinese guests cancelled their bookings, said Mrs Marisa.

The number of cancellations was modest as most tourists already started their trips to Thailand during the National Day holiday.

Hotel operators are more concerned that new bookings will plunge from next week because of the mall shooting, she said.


Ms Sudawan said the Tourism and Sports Ministry plans to hold a discussion with the Digital Economy and Society Ministry to set up mobile safety alerts to help inform tourists of incidents that affect public safety.

Chadatip Chutrakul, chief executive of Siam Piwat Group, the owner and operator of Siam Paragon, Siam Center and Siam Discovery, said the shooting was an unforeseeable circumstance.

She said the group prepared measures to deal with shootings more than three years in advance, following similar incidents in other countries.

"We have measures in place to instruct stores on how to handle and manage customers in such situations," said Mrs Chadatip.

"With this recent incident, the company was able to respond and evacuate almost everyone from the centre within 15-20 minutes."

Nattakit Tangpoonsinthana, chief marketing officer of Central Pattana Plc, said Central malls nationwide have instituted a comprehensive set of security measures to guarantee the safety of all visitors.

These measures include security checkpoints at mall entrances where all bags and luggage are thoroughly checked by staff before entering, with a highly trained security team stationed throughout the premises, said Mr Nattakit.

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